Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Why won't she talk?

What am I to do?

Today, as we walked to school, my daughter told me she didn't like school.

"Why?" I ask.

"Because I can't talk."

Now, you have to understand the background behind this.

Firstly: the immediate past. I had just lost it with her completely because, despite 20 minutes to get dressed, at the time we had to leave she was playing with Lego in her bedroom, in her pyjamas and saying she didn't have a shirt. It was, of course, in the wardrobe where they are always kept: she was just distracted by play. I know, I know ... her behaviour is totally normal (perhaps even for a nearly-7-year-old), but it doesn't make it any less infuriating when I can almost hear the school bell ringing and she still has her dressing-gown on.

Secondly: her history of delayed development. She was late speaking, which we eventually put it down to glue ear and hoped was resolved by grommits. Well, it was in part, and she began to play more with others and pay attention to teachers. But, for some inexplicable reason, she still struggled to catch up. That was nearly four years ago. Despite her perfect hearing she doesn't have good grammar and mispronounces many words. She gets additional help with developing her gross motor skills: she can do everything, but then falls over a lot, or won't hop, or something. Ask her a question and she is like a bunny in the headlights: frightened, blank-faced, panicked. She won't sit still on the carpet and struggles with her numbers, in particular. We have been to speech therapy, who just believe her to be delayed, and have been on a waiting list for OT for nearly two years (not helped by moving house, of course).

Just last week we had a chat with her teachers, the headmaster and SENCO person at school. No-one can pin-point what is wrong with her, why she isn't flying through school, or at least why she is struggling to progress. They commented on her being quiet in class, not answering questions, or having her blank face look if asked directly. I must state that I have complete confidence in her school and the teachers are excellent and (whilst I am being positive) my daughter's reading skills have come on leaps and bounds over the last 6-9 months.

But today - today is the first time that she has said she doesn't like school for a reason that I fear and that I cannot quash: she can't talk. Yesterday she had also said she didn't like school, but I had ignored it, assuming it would pass. (She is the same as all other children in not liking school some days simply because she'd rather be at home watching TV!) She talks at home ... too much, her brother would say! So now I am concerned, and don't know what to do.

Should I tell the teachers? Should I expect it to pass, as it has on other days? Should I go into class and try to encourage her, or would that distract her? Should I push for one-to-one support, or is she lazy and not learning to work independently? Do I do too much with her at home, or too little, or simply the wrong things?

She is usually such a bright, cheerful, giggly little girl, and I would hate that to be squashed by the steamroller of school and education. I want to encourage a love of life and a love of learning and a love of others.

Just not quite sure how to do it. Any advice?

Monday, 28 September 2009

Melancholy Monday

Monday morning: another week stretches out in front of me.

Post piles high: precariously balancing on the edge of my desk. I try to hide it with the diary, but that just reminds me of other jobs to do. At some point all this paperwork has to get filed or shredded or recycled.

The book remains part-edited. Can I bring myself to look at it again? Get the red pen out? Cut and paste. Worst of all: delete, delete, delete. It is a long process.

The computer won't communicate with the printer ... again ... Don't know how my husband sorted it out last time. Or rather, I thought I did and so tried it, and have only succeeded in deleting the printer entirely and the computer doesn't seem to want to re-find it.

My entire social calendar this week consists of: dance class, swimming lesson, drama group, choir, cubs and rainbows. And school discos (a new, one-off event). And, of course, there is the daily routing of feeding everyone, dealing with paperwork, doing the washing/ironing/cleaning, providing a taxi-service. Shouldn't there be something in there for me?

Today, stay-at-home-mum seems a lonely and arduous job: bad hours, poor pay.

Tomorrow? Well, perhaps the sun will shine.

(At least then the washing will get dry.)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A new addition to the family

Some decisions are really big, life-changing even. My husband and I have been toying with this for some months but finally decided, just before he started his new job back in April, that we would try for it. 'It' turns out to be 'she.' It's been a tough period, waiting for her, not knowing when she would come, but finally, last Friday, she arrived in our world. All of us have spent the weekend delighted to get to know her.

Here she is!

Well, that isn't actually her (as you can tell from the number plate) but we live in Manchester: it is raining so I couldn't take an actual photo.

She's also green, in more ways than one. It is a Skoda Fabia Estate, designed to be as green and eco-friendly as possible, given that it guzzles gas. It means a low road tax and lots of mpg (or kpl, or whatever scheme you use). She doesn't have a proper spare wheel, which is a little concerning, but makes her lighter and thus more fuel efficient. (Clearly that calculation is before adding in the four of us and all our luggage - why does so much have to come even on the shortest journeys?)

So, I am going to have to alter my profile. No longer are we without a car and totally reliant on public transport. Now we have joined the community of parents that taxi their children everywhere, rather than get on our bikes or use our feet. In many ways it is a shame, although we are looking forward to being able to explore the countryside around us, to get into the Peak District, to be able to visit friends and family easily.

So how green can we be now? How should we compensate for this small hole we are burning in the ozone layer? Just wait: at some point in the future I have to explain away the Aga we are planning to install in the house...

Monday, 14 September 2009

No pudding for me

"Right, can you clear away the plates please? Time for pudding!"

Daughter folds her arms, frowns and grunts her disapproval. "Don't want pudding."

I look at her, shocked. It's pudding (I've even planned it, rather than having a last-minute panic when I offer yoghurt or fruit). Her father and brother gasp, staring at her in amazement.

"But why? It's apple crumble."

More grunts. More sulking. More astonishment from father, mother and brother.

"Don't want pudding."

"But you like apple crumble. What's wrong?"

"No pudding." She is most emphatic.

Then she sits up straight, spreads out her arms as if she rules the world and declares:

"It's not pudding - it's dessert."

Ah, so that's ok then...

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The tour of Buck House

I was teased by a friend this morning over the fact that we are planning to put two bedrooms in the loft, when we already live in a 6-bedroom house. True: this is an extravagance, but as we have to put a new roof on anyway it makes sense to at least set it out at the same time. And we are losing three (smallish) bedrooms into one + ensuite so we'll balance out in the end. (That's my excuse anyway.)

It got me to thinking again about Buckingham Palace and the Queen. On our holidays one of our biggest expeditions was to Buck House. We arrived early, as I really wanted to see The Changing of the Guard, which I thought was at 10am. I have tried to see TCotG twice before. The first time was in February 1981, on a brief half-term family visit to the capital. In the winter they only do it every other day, and we were there on that other day. I was a sulky 10-year-old who was not happy. And the next day we caught the train home, sharing the underground carriage with a troupe of cub scouts. Imagine my horror when, that evening on the news, I saw the scout leader being interviewed outside Buckingham Palace ... because Charles and Diana had just got engaged!

My second attempt also occured on an 'other' day, but in May or June (or at least some time of year which I thought might qualify as summer).

This time I was determined to get it right. Beginning of August - surely now summer (!), surely it would be on every day?

Well, yes, but ... not until 11.30, so we decided to fill the gap with the tour of Buckingham Palace we were planning to do afterwards and thus ventured in to Betty's home. The prescribed route takes you around the state rooms which are, as you would expect, most impressive, eventually coming out at the back in the gardens, which I thought were stunning.

Quite early on you come to the Throne Room. This is a large room with a few steps up to a platform at the far side, on which are two chairs: his and hers. The Queen's has her logo on, of course, and Philip's a big 'P'. Presumably it will be reupholstered when Charles gets a chance at the job. Like all the rooms, it is extravagantly decorated, extremely tall, a massive chandelier adorned with candles and yet filled with light from the vast courtyard towards the front. The ceiling has shields showing all the heraldic elements of the monarchy: the lions, the harp etc. etc. There is a lot of plush red velvet and silk wall hangings, with a few extra chairs set at the furthest corners of the room from the thrones.

But I did wonder when Q uses this room. Does she greet all new heads of state from here? Surely not: I would think she uses the grand staircase and entrance hall. She doesn't do the investitures here: they are in the ballroom (later in the tour). Does she maintain her authority by insisting the Privy Council sit on the basic chairs in a semi-circle before her throne? Does she bring the Sunday Papers here and settle down for a good read?

I doubt Her Majesty reads my blog (if she does, I'd love her to tell me what she thinks of having a throne room!) but, despite all the grandeur and palatial room proportions, it really struck me as useless in this day and age. To us mere mortals having a music room or a white room or a dining room to seat 40 is more than we can dream of, but at least I can appreciate their uses for a head of state. The Throne Room was just that step too far.

But thank you, Liz, for letting us in. You gave us lots of ideas for our new home (!!) and my daughter and I loved looking at all your ballgowns in the Commonwealth travels display. My daughter, of course, would love to be a princess...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Second best

The Dotterel has set me this challenge, to name my 'seconds' (obviously, my favourite seconds is cheesecake, or pavlova, or chocolate cake, or all three...) But no - he set 10 questions that I can't answer, only ameliorated by saying I need do only one. For completeness, here are the ten questions, together with my comments and memories:

your second girlfriend? (never had one... the odd boyfriend though...!)
your second day at school? (can't remember, although I vaguely remember my first day at my second(ary) school)
who your second best-friend was? Louise. Best Friend 1 I knew from age 2.5; Louise arrived in the village when I was 10 and we became three close friends for many years. Ironically, having lost contact since leaving home, we are now in the same city and have met up - kids and all!
the second LP that you bought? (no idea!)
the second house you lived in? Technically, the house I grew up in, from 2.5 until after I graduated
the second car you drove? Presumably my Dad's: I learnt to drive in Mum's...
your second-favourite band? Hard to pick a favourite, let alone 2nd best!
the second-best book you ever read? The Cross & The Switchblade, David Wilkerson - the story of his work with drug addicts in New York and, bizarrely, a man I met many years later in Zambia
your second-favourite film? (no idea)
your second-favourite blog? Daren't answer this in case I upset someone, although tempted to say Bringing up Charlie as revenge!

I have a queue of memes lined up to answer (I promise, I will get round to them eventually!) and I hate having to pick people but for now I pass this on to Collette, SIFTW, Cheshire Wife and Super Mum. Hope you have fun, and can remember more seconds than me.

Now, where is the remains of that apple crumble...

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Green Man

"Right! There's the green man! Time to cross."

The Withenay family step out into the road. London traffic has reluctantly drawn to a halt, most of it behind the white line.

"Come on, children! Keep moving!"

The persistent beeps from the pedestrian light have ceased. I am aware one child lags behind. Mystified, I stop and stare at her.

"What on earth are you doing?"

My daughter is walking in a fixed fashion, one arm forward, the other back, and trying to make progress with legs in a similar position.

"I'm being the green man," she says.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Quick update on the monkeys

Children back at school: life returns to normality. At least, that is the theory.

So, whilst I have a list of things to blog about, this is a quick post to highlight the on-going saga of the Zambian President, Rupiah Banda, and his monkeys. See my earlier post for the peeing escapade ... and then this, from the BBC yesterday, as to how he is dealing with these rascals.

(What do I hear you say? Is there hunger, poverty and homelessness to deal with in Zambia? Not until after you've dealt with your monkeys...)

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